Don't Let Go of the RAIL!

You know those little boxes in your textbook reading assignments that ask you to “Consider This” or give you a few practice problems to try out? And you know how you always skip those because you want to finish the reading assignment as soon as you can? I’m here to tell you that skipping those parts is a bad idea, because it can be a crucial part to more efficiently internalizing the concepts you learn. For example, imagine you’re climbing an amazing mountain hike like this guy below…

Hiking the El Caminito del Rey – Photo Courteous of blogTurismo

Now, imagine doing that without the handrail… really bad idea, right? Well, the practice problems and extra helps in the textbooks are just like those handrails – they are there to help you have a successful and enjoyable learning experience.

How are they helpful? Because you immediately start using and practicing what you learn rather than trying to read, understand, and remember everything all before you start doing homework. Additionally, this breaks up your reading so that your mind is actively processing your reading, which means you don’t read yourself to sleep and that you’ll have a better retention rate when you need to use it later. Lastly, this prepares you to be actively engaged in the class lecture, because you’ll have a good idea of what the professor is teaching and be able to focus on resolving any confusions you came across. I’ve been doing this for my Organic Chemistry class, and it has really helped the class to not be the notorious nightmare people often say it is; in fact, it has been quite enjoyable. 

Here’s an easy mnemonic to help you remember this hiking comparison and the steps to successful study: RAIL.

So, next time you sit down to study (or go on a crazy mountain hike), remember: Don’t let go of the RAIL.

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